Saturday, June 21, 2014

Gifts of Grandeur: A Swiss Enameled Gold Necklace, 1860

Enamelled Gold Necklace
Switzerland, 1860
The Victoria & Albert Museum

When visiting Switzerland in the late Nineteenth Century, fashionable people often returned to their homes with examples of the enameled gold jewelry for which the Swiss had become celebrated.

This enameled gold necklace was a gift purchased in Switzerland and comes from the collection of an anonymous donor to the V&A. Showing the fine enamel-work of the Swiss, the necklace features multiple portraits of ladies of fashion, linked by heavy gold chain.

Such a souvenir would have been highly coveted. This style of necklace was especially in vogue during the London Season of 1861

Unusual Artifacts: The Hand and Arm of Victoria, Princess Royal, 1843

The Royal Collection

Queen Victoria had a great desire to capture moments in the lives of her family. She was very much interested in recording the growth of her children so that she could remember them at all stages of their lives. This desire took many forms. She had miniature portraits painted of her children as they grew. She even had jewelry commissioned which used their baby teeth as the principal ornament.

When Victoria died in 1901, a touching (and to modern eyes, quite odd) collection of marble arms, hands and feet was found in her private rooms at Buckingham Palace. The Queen had commissioned sculptor Abraham Kent (who would most likely not be remembered were it not for these objects) to create these marble keep-sakes of her children’s features so that she could remember them when they were small. Kent took a plaster mold of the Princess Royal’s hand and arm in order to capture every detail when he was sculpting the stone. The process of obtaining the casts had to be done while the children were sleeping as they would not stand for it while they were awake.

The Royal Collection
This sculpture, like its brethren, was kept on a crimson velvet cushion under a glass dome to ensure that the marble would stay a pristine white. It really is quite beautiful in its own way. We must remember, when we view artifacts such as this, that this was before everyone had a camera in their pocket. Today, we have so many ways of recording our lives. Victoria, like many other mothers throughout time, simply wanted a way to recall the sweetest years of her children’s lives.

Masterpiece of the Week: Bannalist and Pandour, 'Freikorps Trenck', 1748

Bannalist and Pandour
David Morier, 1748
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection 
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Created by David Morier (1705?-1770), this work of oil on canvas was commissioned by William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland (1721-1765). David Morier was a celebrated Swiss painter, known for his military and sporting scenes. 

Morier had a long association with the Duke of Cumberland, starting in 1747, when he painted a group of canvases of the troops under the Duke’s command. Until 1764, Morier was employed as “limner” (or painter) to the Duke of Cumberland on an annual salary of £100. The painting depicts two soldiers facing the viewer. They are posed in front of a flat, open landscape, holding rifles in their right hands. The one on the right is wearing a scarlet uniform, while the one on the left is clad in blue with red boots. 

Saturday Style: A Red Hunt Dress Coat, 1920

The Victoria & Albert Museum

Dating to 1920, this red hunt dress coat (on the left of the photo) with wide lapels and a green wool collar was made by Henry Corlett. The coat is double breasted and has three sets of metal buttons, adorned with an engraved design of foxes and thistles, on either side as well as 2 cufflink-style buttons fastening the fronts. The coat has a waist seam, a back vent and is sharply cut away at the side, forming two long tails. It is lined with grosgrain and the sleeves are lined with cream sateen.

During the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, hunting was not only the most popular sport, but also symbolic of the easy lifestyle of the upper classes. To be seen on the hunting field was the equivalent of the highest social standing.

This coat is part of an important collection previously housed in Castle Howard, Yorkshire. The collection includes seven scarlet hunt coats and one blue hunt coat as well as waistcoats, breeches, stockings and boots.

Hunt membership rules dictated the color and style of the costume. The buttons on this coat, engraved with foxes and a thistle, denote to which hunt the wearer belonged. A coat such as this one was worn for formal occasions and hunt balls--never out on the field.

History's Runway: A Pair of Ladies Boots, c. 1865

French, 1865
The Victoria & Albert Museum

These red boots, laced at the back, are made of ribbed silk. They were designed to come up just above the ankle and are set with the then-fashionable “military” style heel. The heel has been covered in silk to match the uppers. They have are trimmed at the top with bobbin lace and ribbons.

London Society ladies of the 1860s and 1870s had a passion for these high-heeled French boots which were important from Parisian show-makers or often copied by English cobblers. According to the V&A, “The French influence was due to the stylish Empress Eugenie who had married the French emperor, Napoleon III, in 1853. She was probably responsible for the introduction of the shorter skirt which led to a greater emphasis on stockings and shoes.” Such boots tended to be rather gaudy by Nineteenth Century standards and were made in a variety of bold, bright colors thanks to the chemical aniline dyes which were introduced in the 1860s. 

Gifts of Grandeur: The Harrods Shoe Snuffbox, c. 1870

Snuffbox, 1870-1880
The Talbot Collection at
The Victoria & Albert Museum

In the Nineteenth Century, boots and shoes were symbols of good luck. So, it was only natural that trinkets and personal objects should take the form of footwear. This snuffbox, dating between 1870 and 1880, is an excellent example of that phenomenon. The box is made in the shape of a fashionable Victorian lady’s button-boot of the 1860s. It is even adorned with metal studs just like the real thing would have been. The top of the boot forms the container for the snuff.

It’s a sure thing that this box was made in England, but other similar examples were imported from France at the time. The lid of the box is missing, but it’s still quite attractive. While most collectible snuffboxes were made of golf, hardstone or precious metals, some—like these novelty boxes—were made of wood. The mahogany box has been carefully hand painted, partly ebonized, and adorned with brass stringing, brass nails in the sole and heel, and brass and mother-of-pearl buttons.

Now part of the V&A’s Talbot Hughes Collection, the box was originally donated to the V&A by Messrs. Harrods of London in 1913. 

Object of the Day: Life and Coffee in a Shoe

Click image to be whipped soundly.

There was an old woman
     who lived in a shoe,
She had so many children
     she didn’t know what to do;
She gave them some broth
     without any bread, 

She whipped them all soundly
     and put them to bed. 

Excellent parenting advice. It makes me think of the strength and purity of coffee, it does.

At first, I wasn’t sure if this card was die-cut or if it was cut by hand by a former owner who intended to use it for other purposes, likely decoupage. The latter was often the fate of these trade cards. In one way this preserved them forever under a nice layer of varnish, but, in another, it distances the item from its original form.

Either way, here we have an old lady who lived in her shoe. Living in a shoe, it seems, hasn’t kept her from procreating. Clearly, this card was once one of a collectible series produced by Lion Coffee. This was No. 8.

Now, you see, this is where the whole thing gets foggy. On the reverse, printed above the verse describing this elderly woman’s living conditions, we have a line drawing of the scene to the left of the image from the next scene in the series.  Or is it? And, then, at the very bottom are the mysterious words, “Bend Back Standards.”

What does that mean?

Was this part of a larger sheet which was designed to be cut and displayed in a child’s room? Were the publishers anticipating that these would be collected in order?

I couldn’t leave it alone. So, a little research tells me that this was, in fact, a die-cut card, one of a nursery rhyme series which also corresponds with a paper-doll series produced by Lion Coffee in the late Nineteenth Century.

But, there’s something missing. First of all, the lower portion of this card is now gone. This would have been bent and taped so that the “shoe” would stand up as a background. You’ll notice that the “old woman” is conspicuously absent from the shoe. That’s because she came later as a paper doll—also a standee. She was shown holding a large stick in one hand and a naughty child in the other and was drawn in mid-spank. Charming.  The second piece of this scene was a standee of the other, already-beaten, children in bed.

All-in-all, it’s a nifty advertising gimmick. Collectors of such things are quite keen to amass the complete sets which, it seems, are very difficult to come by. So, apparently, even a century later, the gimmick is still working. Well done, Lion Coffee.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Mastery of Design: King Edward VII's Gaming Box

Gaming Box Belonging to King Edward VII

Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Via The Royal Collection Trust
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Click image to enlarge.

This rectangular double-hinged gold box with chased scroll and floral borders in high relief and central engine-turned panels was made between 1826 and 1836.  Though we're not quite sure how, the box ended up in the collection of King Edward VII.

The top contains four rectangular and four circular pierced gold games counters, each chased with flowers and scrolls, and each one marked as the ace of a different suit (hearts, diamonds, cubs and spades). The base of the box contains three spiral markers.

Mr. Punch in the Arts: Deschars en habit de Polichinel

Deschars en Habit de Polichinel
France, Eighteenth Century
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Titled, Deschars en habit de Polichinel / au Divertissement de Villeneuue Saint-Georges, this Eighteenth Century French print refers to a character who is very familiar to us. The hooked nose and chin, the pot belly and arching back tell us that the person depicted here is in the guise of Mr. Punch, or technically Polichinelle (Polichinel). Polichinelle is the French version of the Italian commedia dell'arte stock-character, Pulcinella, who developed into Britain’s Mr. Punch when Charles II was restored to the English throne in 1660. 

Like Punch, Polichinel was a rogue and an anarchist. He is seen here on a balustraded terrace in profile. His face is covered with a grotesque mask and he wears a soft broad-crowned hat with feathers held in a jewel mount. 

This is actually a depiction of an actor called “Deschars” in character as Polichinelle. This print was part of a collection of theatrical advertisements which was bequeated to the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Print of the Day: Sheet Music Cover for “Polichinelle” or, The Royal Punchinello Quadrilles' by Musard, 1843

The V&A
Sheet Music Cover for Musard's Polichinelle or "The Royal Punchinello Quadrilles"
English, 1843
The George Speaight Archive
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Polichinelle is the French term for Pulcinella (or Pulcinello), the Italian Commedia dell’Arte character who became known as Punchinello in England, and, then, later Mr. Punch.  This 1843 sheet music cover for a group of songs called, “Polichinelle, or, The Royal Punchinello Quadrilles” by Musard (published by R. Cocks & Co.) depicts Mr. Punch with his wife Judy who holds their famed, put-upon baby.  As is traditionally the case, the baby’s face is that of his hook-nose, hunch-backed, portly puppet papa.

What’s curious about this is that Punch and Judy appear to have other children—boys and girls who also, rather sadly, resemble their father.  The tradition of Punch doesn’t include other children, so I find this very interesting.  I wonder if our Mr. Punch tossed these tots out of the window as well.  If so, they appear to have survived and grown to be rather jolly.

Friday Fun: An Early Twentieth Century German Animation

This silent animation comes from Germany in the early Twentieth Century and depicts a traditional Punch & Judy scene (in Germany, they’re known as “Kasperl" and "Gretl").  Mr. Punch and his wife are having one of their patented spats.  The film is crafted so that it forms an endless loop.  It’s quite interesting.  That's the way to do it!

A Recipe for Punch, Chapter 122

Chapter 122
The Notion

"Mr. Quick wants to see ya,"  Hargrave growled at Gregory outside the entrance to the servants' hall.

"Cor!  Keep your voice low, you fool."  Gregory snapped.  "His Grace has his supporters in there.  They'd, every one of 'em, love to go to 'im with word that I've been summoned to the parson's."

"Let them hear."  Hargrave laughed.  "They'll be pressed, they will, the bring word to the Duke."

"Well, odd's fish."  Gregory smirked.  "Why's that, then?  Last I knew, he was just about the estate lookin' for the lobster woman.  Now she's come to roost, what's to keep the little nancy from returnin' to his spot at the head o' the table?"

"I got' im, that's what."  Hargrave grinned.  "Got 'im and handed 'im over to Mr. Quick."

Gregory's eyes widened.  "Whatever for?  That weren't part o' the scheme."

"Maybe not at first, but none o' this has unfolded as Mr. Quick 'ad planned.  Now, did it?"

Gregory shook his head.

"Why'd I go to all the trouble, then, of bringin' out the Pepper boy and that Perkins, if the vicar ain't gonna use 'em?  And, what o' Charlotte?  That's a waste, then.  Isn't it?"

"No, no.  You misunderstand.  The Perkins lad can be used fine, and Charlotte, too.  Ain't your fault that George Pepper got free.  It's only that Mr. Quick's got the notion that..."  He leaned in and whispered.  "The duchess might benefit from bein' given her son's heart."

"Oh, fine."  Gregory nodded.  "So, seems to me that Quick's all right.  What's he want me for?"

"Dunno,"  Hargrave shrugged.  "Just sent me to fetch ya."

"I'll be 'round shortly."  Gregory replied.  "He's at the parsonage, then?"

"Nope."  Hagrave shook his head.  

"The chapel?"


"Well, then, man...where am I to go?"  Gregory asked.

"That's it, Gregory, I canno' tell ya."  Hargrave answered.

Gregory scowled.  "Then, how am I to know how to get to Quick?"

"You'll have to come with me."

"I cannot go now.  I can feel all the eyes in the servants' hall on me through the window.  If I go off with ya, people will talk.  Maybe the Duke's not a problem, but his maryann is about, so is the Lobster Woman, and furthermore, all 'is ever-so-loyal staff.  Not to mention the sister..."

"That's enough, Gregory."  Hargrave grumbled.

"I'm merely tryin' to..."

"You don't gotta come with me now.  That's what I'm tryin' to tell ya."

"Oh.  When, then?"

"After ya nicked something for us."  Hargrave smiled.  "I'll give ya an hour.  When ya done it, I'll come and meet ya at the far end o' the courtyard, and, I'll take ya to Mr. Quick."

"Here, what ya want me to steal?"  Gregory asked.

"The baby."  Hargrave grinned.

Did you miss Chapters 1-121 of A Recipe for Punch?  If so, you can read them here.  Come back on Monday for Chapter 123.

Unusual Artifacts: Schichtl Marionettes Flower Seller, c. 1900

Trick Puppet
Wizard from Kasperle
The Schichtl Marionette Company, Germany, c. 1910
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Made in Germany around 1910, this marionette is part of a group from the Schichtl Marionette Company. He’s part of the “Kasperle” tradition and is, at first glance, the character of “The Wizard.” But, there’s more than meets the eye. He’s a “trick puppet.” He can transform from the wizard into a dwarfish flower seller.

The puppet features a carved and painted wooden face with glass eyes, wooden hands, leather-clad feeties, a horsehair moustache, beard and wig.

While the wizard, he carries a wand, wears a long cream silk crepe robe with a silk collar. Appliqué black felt and velvet magical symbols adorn the silk robe while skull and crossbone motifs decorate his conical silk hat.

Concealed under the silk robe, is the flower-seller. This dwarf puppet wears a white cotton shirt, green and yellow belt and braces, red cotton knee-length breeches and tan stockings. The flower seller holds a metal lamp in his right hand and a wooden bucket of silk flowers on his head—as one does. 

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: Monsieur Mazurier as Mr. Punch, c. 1820

Monsieur Mazurier
Cooke, 1820
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Quite some time ago, we looked at an image of the celebrated Monsieur Mazurier as Mr. Punch.  Here’s another.  This engraving is entitled simply, “Monsieur Mazurier.”

It was published in Paris possibly in the 1820's.  The illustration portrays Mazurier  in a theatrical stance wearing a Punchinello costume. A puppet figure of Mr. Punch can be seen in the background in the same stance.

Engraved by one “C. Motte,” further inscriptions include:
Mr. Mazurier./ Dans le Rôle de Polichinel Vampire/ Theatre de la porte St. Martin' Mr Mazurier/ in the title role in Polichinelle Vampire/ St. Martin Theatre.

So who is this fellow?  Monsieur Charles-François Mazurier performed in “Punchinelle Vampire” as well as in “Jacko, The Brazilian Monkey.”  Both plays were  written by Jean-Baptiste Blache, in Paris and London in the 1820s. In November 1825 Mazurier performed at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, in “Punchinelle Vampire” which was translated as “The Shipwreck of Policinello.”  Playbills for the Covent Garden performances are also housed in the V&A.  

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: Interior of a Dinner Bowl

"Good party; but where are the hamburgers?"

Image:  Interior of a Tavern with Cardplayers and a Violin Player, Creator: Jan Steen, (Leiden 1626-Leiden 1679) (artist), Creation Date: 1663 - 1670, Materials: Oil on canvas, Acquirer: George IV, King of the United Kingdom (1762-1830), when Prince Regent (1811-20), Provenance: Purchased by George IV in 1818 for £170.

Crown Copyright, The Royal Collection via The Royal Collection Trust.  The original image is courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

To learn more about this lively Dutch masterpiece, visit its official entry in the online catalog of The Royal Collection.

You, too, could have a cup of tea with Bertie. Or, you could wear his picture proudly. Visit our 
online store to see our range of Gratuitous Bertie Dog products.

Mastery of Design: A Magnificent “Cat’s Eye” and Diamond Ring, 1850

The Victoria & Albert Museum
Made in London in 1850, this curious ring is set with an impressive chrysoberyl (Cat's Eye) with a border of brilliant-cut diamonds in a gold setting. The stone is so large that it is set on double shoulders—one set to support the weight of the stone and one set to fit the finger, though it’s doubtful that the ring was ever worn.
This ring is part of a collection of 154 gems bequeathed to the V&A by the Reverend Chauncy Hare Townshend, a cleric and poet. We’ve looked at the Reverend Townsend’s rings before and they are certainly quite a magnificent collection. Townsend collected an assortment of extraordinary stones which he had mounted as rings. However, they were never intended to be worn. The settings served only to showcase the stones.

Treat of the Week: Bertie's Birthday Burger Bash, 2014

As regular readers of the site know, every year, my mother and father host a wonderful birthday party for their grand-dog, Bertie. Each year, “Bertie’s Birthday Burger Bash,” reaches new heights of perfection. Of course, there are presents. Bertie loves to get presents. He's not so interested in seeing other people receive gifts, but, when they're for him, he's quite thrilled. He very much enjoys sticking his head into a gift bag and pulling out his toys and treats. This year’s presents all had a particular theme.

This was the year that Bertie adopted his very own cat. You've seen pictures of Bertie's cat, Miss Oscar--a pretty (and very large) orange tabby. Bertie loves his cat very much, and she loves him. So, it only seemed appropriate that his birthday should have a kitty cat theme--right down to the toys he received, a leopard and a tiger.

Of course, no “Birthday Burger Bash” would be complete without hamburgers—sliders to be exact—adorned with assorted cheeses, delicious homemade guacamole, greens, tomatoes, olives, and pickles. Bertie had his own—sans roll since he’s on Atkins. These were accompanied by lovely oven roasted potatoes and sweet potatoes.

We ate under cheerful buntings and puffy paper parrots.

The greatest surprise of all, of course, was his cake. Every year my mother bakes Bertie a special cake. In the past they've taken the form of everything from Bertie himself to his tasty cake portraits of his favorite toys. 

This year, it only seemed right that the cake should again look like Bertie's favorite playmate. Miss Oscar!

And, here she is!

My mother spent hours making this beautiful cake, affixing her pointy ears and little cat muzzle, and decorating it to resemble Miss Oscar from her bright green eyes to the tabby cat M-shape marking between them. 

She started with a sketch of her idea.

Then, she, somehow, translated that idea into cake.

Beneath the feline portrait is a delicious banana cake--a favorite of Bertie's. A white buttercream filling was a lovely surprise.

Bertie enjoyed his own small piece.

Later, I tried to explain to Miss Oscar that we ate an effigy of her head at Bertie's party. She seemed to approve...

...especially after I showed her the pictures of her portrait.  She really liked the dog-bone shaped candle.

As always, I want to thank my parents for all of the time and effort they put into celebrating Bertie's birthday, and especially thank my mother for the talent and skill she uses in creating this exceptional cakes. Bertie's a very special boy and I know that he appreciates his parties as much as I do.